John Tavares a Kidnap Victim?: Do the New York Islanders Need to Be Rescued?

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John Tavares a Kidnap Victim?: Do the New York Islanders Need to Be Rescued?
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Kidnapped?

When West Wing character Matt Santos' presidential campaign starts to flounder, he looks to his vice-presidential candidate Leo McGarry to take over the campaign from McGarry's protege' Josh Lyman.

Santos was responding to criticism of Lyman that reminds me a lot of attitudes among NHL pundits and bloggers toward Garth Snow and the New York Islanders.

A recent article in The Hockey News refers to Islander superstar John Tavares as being "marooned" or "stranded" on Long Island. During the 5-0 blowout that was Crosby's return game, announcers patronized the Islanders with concerns about the development of their young players.

These concerns would have had merit during the tenure of Mike Milbury as Islander general manager (1995-2006). Milbury was known to push prospects prematurely onto the NHL stage and then equally prematurely trade them away when they failed to produce quickly.

Milbury did such a complete job of destroying this once proud franchise, the Islanders' track record has been so poor, and Snow's career began in such a bizarre fashion that many simply assumed that Snow was continuing the mismanagement.

It did not help that Snow had no previous hockey management experience and that one of his first official acts was to preside over the announcement of the dreadful DiPietro contract.

Snow's stellar reputation around the NHL, his advanced management training and the fact that he had nothing at all to do with the DiPietro contract apart from announcing it to the sports world were all ignored.

The foundational pick

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, the pundits also ignored what Snow has done with the Islanders.

It took Snow just two years to realize that the Islanders needed a total rebuild.

In the first year of that rebuild (2008), Snow signed a high quality No. 1 defenseman and drafted a franchise defenseman and goaltender.

His staff has turned what was one of the NHL's worst prospect systems into the third-best.

With the help of pro scout Ken Morrow, Snow has turned up gems like repeat 30-goal scorer Matt Moulson, Calder candidate Michael Grabner and potential franchise goaltender Al Montoya.

Still, Snow's Islanders continue to struggle so it is assumed that he does not know what he is doing. This is not, however, unusual for rebuilding teams.

Hockey Hall of Fame general manager Jimmy Devellano averaged two points per year fewer (after loser points are taken away from the Islander totals) in his first four years than Snow has in the first three years of his rebuild. And Devellano did not have to deal with a salary cap, had an owner who spent money with abandon and had no trouble attracting free agents—advantages Snow does not have.

Michael Grabner: another Snow find

As with Snow, the pundits wanted Devellano's head on a platter. His owner ignored the pundits and the Red Wings were soon the envy of the NHL.

 

Returning to the West Wing analogy, Santos was upset when McGarry refused to take over his campaign. McGarry politely but firmly pointed out to Santos that the problem was not with Josh Lyman's management of the Santos campaign. The problem was that Santos had yet to convince voters that he should be president.

 

 

Garth Snow labors ceaselessly to improve the Islander franchise and to return it to its former glory. In the coming months, he will continue ongoing efforts to acquire a quality No. 2 defenseman and will wrestle with the question of whether Jack Capuano is the best choice as coach. These are important decisions.

Ultimately, however, the future of the franchise will be decided on the ice. Try as he might, Garth Snow cannot transform the Islanders into a champion. John Tavares and his teammates are the ones who will have to pay the price physically, emotionally and spiritually to become champions.

Tavares and his teammates are neither stranded or marooned. They are slowly and painfully building a championship ethos on Long Island.

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